Seven Deadly Shadows
by Courtney Alameda and Valynne E. Maetani
Expected publication: January 28th 2020 by HarperCollins
Kira Fujikawa has always been a girl on the fringe. Bullied by her peers and ignored by her parents, the only place Kira’s ever felt at home is at her grandfather’s Shinto shrine, where she trains to be a priestess.
But Kira’s life is shattered on the night her family’s shrine is attacked by a vicious band of yokai demons. With the help of Shiro—the shrine’s gorgeous half-fox, half-boy kitsune—Kira discovers that her shrine harbors an ancient artifact of great power . . . one the yokai and their demon lord, Shuten-doji, will use to bring down an everlasting darkness upon the world.
Unable to face the Shuten-doji and his minions on her own, Kira enlists the aid of seven ruthless shinigami—or death gods—to help stop the brutal destruction of humankind. But some of the death gods aren’t everything they initially seemed, nor as loyal to Kira’s cause as they first appeared.
With war drawing nearer by the day, Kira realizes that if this unlikely band of heroes is going to survive, they’re going to have to learn to work together, confront their demons, and rise as one to face an army of unimaginable evil.
I received an eARC of this book from publisher through Edelweiss plus in exchange for an honest review.
Trigger warning: bullying (physical and mental), death of loved ones
Seven Deadly Shadows is one of my most anticipated read this year. Growing up with manga and anime, yet subsequently abandoning them as I get more and more into reading, the synopsis of this book feels like a trip down a memory lane. Not only because of the Japanese setting and cultures represented, but because it’s been a while since I read a YA paranormal.
Set in Japan, this book is really steeped in Japanese culture, both the daily etiquettes and the Shinto religion. I can’t comment on the accuracy of the representation, but I love learning more about Japanese cultures despite how rigid it is (no PDA, respect and social hierarchy, different types of bows, as well as the notorious school pressure) and Shinto deities. I may know about Amaterasu before reading this book, but the rest of the deities and creatures are lost to me, so it learning and reading about them has been a great experience!
The plot is really good and have so much potential. However, it also have plenty of subplots to cover and as the result, felt rushed at times and some points felt unresolved. For example, I love the build up and anxiety before the final battle- I think it’s super realistic considering their situation and as a reader, I definitely on the edge of my seat too. However, the final confrontation against Shuten-doji itself felt really rushed. Other things promised in the blurb, such as the Shinigami motives also never really resolved in the end. Some subplots, such as the bullying and the romance felt useless. I also wish some scene were done differently: Kira’s mom admission, final fight against Shuten-Doji, piercing the sword together… it all felt very convenient. And at the end of the book, there were still plenty of questions unanswered.
I guess it opens up huge possibility for a sequel, but as some of the answers are actually promised in the blurb, I would rather reading them in this book.
As for the characters themselves, I love Kira! She knows she’s different, carrying the legacy of her family shrine and able to see yokai. However, she embraced it and even fighting to be worthy of her legacy. She’s determined and compassionate, and her reactions to events unfolding in this book are extremely realistic.
The second main character, Shiro, is actually great but felt typical kitsune- mischiveous and charming. As such, I feel like his character is overshadowed by Kira’s journey. Combined with his status as love interest, I couldn’t say anything much about him. I’m more interested in his family, Ronin and O-bei, whose motives remain elusive. Especially Ronin, as we have a lot to unpack from him.
The rest of the supporting cast, aka the shinigami, also feels the same. They are all have a lot of potential and backstory to be revealed, especially Shimada and Roji. And yet, we never actually got to them. At least each shinigami has a distinct personality and we got to see the dynamics between them.
Overall, Seven Deadly Shadows was a great read. I enjoyed getting to know more of Japanese culture and Shinto religion, especially through a great story and fantastic main character. However, it has too many things going on that aside from the main plot, the subplots are felt rushed or unresolved.